Paper: An Analysis of Fae Myenne Ng's Masterly Debut Novel Centers on Three Chinese American Sisters

#Bone, by Fae Myenne Ng. New York: Hyperion, 1993 Fae Myenne Ng's masterly debut novel centers on three Chinese American sisters. All are raised by the same mother and father, Mah and Leon, but each responds differently to family dynamics and the conflict between their San Francisco Chinatown community and American culture. Each evolves into an individual woman with a separate destiny. Leila, the oldest daughter and the book's narrator, is bound most strongly to Chinatown, though she drives a Karmann-Ghia and favors burritos. Nina, the youngest, escapes - first through adolescent independence and later by leaving Chinatown altogether and moving 3,000 miles away. The middle daughter, Ona, commits suicide, an event that shapes much of the book. In a pattern that recalls many stories passed down orally, Bone begins at the end, as a newly- married Leila looks back on her family and community's history. "Remembering the past gives power to the present," she observes, and it is the non-linear process of remembering that structures the novel. The feelings encompassed in memories dictate the flow of events. Whole years escape Leila's notice, but she remembers every detail of the minutes just after she learned of Ona's death: how "the light was aggressive" and "people moved with the jerky motion of puppets." Her memories easily crystallize into the tales - of disasters, celebrations, departures and reunions - that compose a family history. Some of Ng's best writing comes in Leila's observations on the way language works in a bilingual culture. "| have a whole different vocabulary of feeling in English than in Chinese," Leila notes, "and not everything can be translated." Ng seems to revel not only in the joy of language, but also in its fear and confusion. She chooses her words deliberately so as to convey their full force. For example, Leila observes that it's impossible for her to win an argument in Chinese; and she recalls how she hated serving as her parents’ translator, resented the burden of knowing two languages: "Every English word counted and | was responsible...Every English word was like a curse." Ng's writing can be chilling and painful, but the overall tone is one of introspective sadness, most accurately captured in Leila's description of how she gave her parents the news of Ona's suicide: "This telling had a stillness, not time stopping, but time hurting." Ng is a master storyteller. Her gift for observation and language makes Bone truly extraordinary. Fae Myenne Ng's prose is clear, clean really, making Bone a good choice for readers at pre-GED level and above. Bone provides an open door to another culture - Fae Myenne Ng invites us to step in. **Bibliography** ...